#1: Prana normally flows in either Ida or Pingala: Our kundalini energy system is usually more active in either the left or right sides, which are the Ida and Pingala. Of the thousands of energy channels (nadis), three are most important: Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna (sometimes called "silver cord"), which is the central channel, and the most important.
Solar and lunar breaths: The breath and the underlying energy, or Prana, usually flow predominantly on one side or other, the left or the right. Breath predominantly in the left nostril is described as cool, and sometimes referred to as feminine. The flow of Prana on the left is the lunar, and is called Ida. Breath flowing predominantly in the right nostril is described as hot, and sometimes referred to as masculine. The flow of Prana on the right is the solar, and is called Pingala.
Nostril dominance shifts: Usually we believe that we are breathing through both nostrils, although breath is normally dominant in one or the other. The dominance shifts from time to time during the day. For one with a well balanced body and mind, that shift of nostril dominance happens approximately once in ninety minutes. For other people, the shift may be much different. Sometimes one can be so off balance that one nostril remains dominant, which is a symptom of some physical, mental, or emotional difficulties.
Prana is the first energy: The word Prana comes from two roots. Pra means first, and na is the smallest unit of energy. Prana is therefore the first breath, the primal or atomic beginning of the flow of energy. Out of this first unit of energy manifests all aspects and levels of the human being. It is one and the same with kundalini shakti.
Prana flows in nadis: That kundalini, manifesting as Prana flows in certain patterns, or lines, or channels that are called nadis. There are said to be some 72,000 such nadis coursing through the subtle body that supports the physical body and its various systems. When the Prana flows across the latent impressions, they spring to life in the form of awareness in the conscious mind, in the physical body and brain.
Intersections of the nadis are chakras: When kundalini manifests outward, those thousands of nadis intersect here and there, forming the matrix of the subtle body. The major intersections are called chakras (section#5), and the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space manifest around these so as to form the gross body. Often, we speak of chakras as if they are in the body. Actually, this is somewhat backwards. It is more like the body has been suspended on the subtle chakras, with these chakras being formed or constructed by the major highway intersections of the nadis, which are none other than kundalini shakti.
Getting centered: In our common language, we speak of feeling off-balance or getting balanced. We speak of wanting to be centered. To balance or center the energies is the goal of this step of the Kundalini Awakening process. This affects not only the subtle body, but is also experienced in the gross, physical body, and brings tremendous health benefits by positively regulating the autonomic nervous system. (The Tantra practice of Yoga Nidra and the Yoga Nidra CD are very effective in attaining such a balance.)
Transitions between Ida and Pingala: There is a natural transition between Ida and Pingala from time to time during the day. For those with very healthy bodies and minds, this shift happens approximately every 90 minutes. For others, the shift may not follow so naturally, or energy may be more or less stuck in either Ida or Pingala for much longer periods of time during the 24 hours of the day.
Transitions bring calmness to the mind: In these moments of natural transition, the mind is calm, centered, or balanced. There is a sense of inner peace, as if the mind wants to do nothing but be in meditation. For most of us, unaware of this transition, we force ourselves to stay with the matters at hand in the external world during these moments, possibly thinking we are just sleepy. Once you are aware of this natural shifting, it can provide a time to take just a minute for yourself to enjoy the inner stillness. It is as if nature is giving us a free meditation from time to time.
Sandhya, the wedding: The union or balancing of Ida and Pingala is like a marriage. It is the wedding of sun and moon, night and day. This wedding is called sandhya, and like with a marriage, is a time of great joy, only this is a meditative joy. In this wedding even the mind and the breath are joined in a happy union. Later, the wedding is of jiva, the individual soul, and brahman, the absolute reality, turiya, the fourth state.
Beginning of joy in meditation: This balancing of Ida and Pingala, and causing Prana to flow evenly, this wedding of sun and moon, is the real beginning of joy in meditation. All of the other practices up to this stage are to bring this state of peaceful mind, from where the real practice of meditation begins. From this point, meditation is a joy, not a discipline. For, why would anybody have to cultivate discipline to do that which is only bringing joy?
Even breath between the nostrils: At one's regularly scheduled time for Yoga meditation, the aspirant wants to be able to balance these two energies by direct control. Breath balancing practices are done so as to balance Ida and Pingala, allowing them to flow evenly. These practices are extremely useful and build a foundation for Kundalini Awakening.
Opening a nostril with the mind: The ability to regulate this balance of breath by focusing the mind on the flow in the nostrils, though a simple practice, is one of the most profound parts of the inner journey. Notice with your mind which nostril is flowing more, and which is flowing less freely. By focusing attention on the closed or less open nostril, it will gradually open, and bring an increased feeling of calm. This may take some months to accomplish, or it may come sooner, but the skill will definitely come with practice.
Alternate nostril breathing: Alternate nostril breathing is a specific practice to balance Ida and Pingala, whereby you intentionally breathe through one, and then the other nostril. It may be done either with the fingers or the intentionality of the mind. There are many combinations of alternate nostril breathing, though one of the simplest is to breath three exhalations and inhalations from one nostril, and then three from the other. This is called one round of alternate nostril breathing. Three rounds is generally done to complete the practice.
Soham mantra: The breath naturally makes two sounds, Sooooooo with inhalation, and Hummmmmm with exhalation. Conscious use of the soham mantra is a tremendous aid in balancing Ida and Pingala. The Soham Mantra CD can be a useful aid in this process.
Autonomic nervous system: Balancing Ida and Pingala also balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, reducing the elevated flight or fight response. In other words, the single act of balancing the breath is a tremendous aid in physical stress reduction, in addition to being a spiritual practice setting the stage for Kundalini Awakening.
Activities during the day: Although the days of most people are busy, it is useful to know about the difference between Ida and Pingala dominance in relation to activities. When the right nostril is open, when Pingala is dominant, this a better time to do more active projects. When the left nostril is open, when Ida is predominant, this is a better time to do more quiet projects.
Solid foods and liquids: Ideally, solid foods are taken when Pingala is more active, when the right nostril is open; this aids in digestion. Since this is more dominant in midday, that is usually the best time to take the major meal of the day. Ideally, liquids are taken when Ida is more predominant, when the left nostril is open. It is important to be flexible about principles such as these, so that they do not become obstacles or irritating rules.